Meebo, the company that powers social interaction through instant messaging and group chat on its own and partner sites, has partnered with Hearst Magazines Digital Media, a unit of Hearst Magazines. Seventeen.com and Popularmechanics.com are two of the digital media properties that are integrating Meebo’s chat and instant messaging services to drive users to the sites and create active, passionate communities.
The key reason Hearst entered the deal is to increase engagement on its sites, according to Daniel Bernstein, Meebo’s director of business development. “When users load up a Meebo room, they stay in it for thirteen minutes. We have widgets that get longer session lengths than some of the world’s biggest websites,” he said.
To kick off the partnership, Seventeen Magazine, the popular teen publication, has integrated Meebo chat rooms into a “Style Stars 2008″ online feature to spark buzz and conversation around fashion and the best (and, inevitably, the worst) dressed celebrities of the year. Released just a few hours ago, Meebo’s technology enables members of the Seventeen.com community to chat in real time, as well as check out the latest photos, articles and videos of their favorite fashion icons.
Once you select your personal favorite style maven — please don’t choose Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen — the site takes you a customized chat room that centers around that celebrity. Below is what ensues when teenage girls profess their undying love for pop star Beyoncé Knowles and her sartorial choices in real-time (note the abundance of exclamation points and smiley emoticons):
Meebo chat rooms can be tailored for specific content to great effect, such as a recent Popular Mechanics online article that generated 20,000 lines of conversation in the first 48 hours. Magazines are finding it increasingly essential to establish strong online presences and communities. They also offer special online-only features in order to make up for sagging print sales and a decline in subscriptions.
To date, Mountain View-based Meebo has raised $37.5 million from Sequoia Capital, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, JAFCO Ventures, Time Warner Investments and KTB Ventures.